Jane Skelding (SAS) - 2021-22 Students

Implicit Histories: Decoding the 1921 Archive

Historians have long sought to recover marginalized voices and experiences, and the popularity of genealogical websites such as Findmypast (FMP) demonstrates the public appetite for understanding these histories better. This project is framed around the centenary release of the 1921 census, which FMP is digitising in partnership with the National Archives for a major public launch in January 2022, the largest release of UK census data in a generation.

FMP, which partners with more than 400 archives, has identified a public need around the interpretation of ambiguous historical language conventions, especially euphemism, in the official records. Newspapers and other contemporary contexts help supplement socially coded phrases used to conceal experiences once considered ‘taboo.’ The project will have an unequalled opportunity to access back-end datasets at FMP and will work to reduce the opacity in textual archives, deciphering the conventions and euphemisms of previous generations to make them easy to understand for anyone researching today.

The project will identify patterns such as coded phrases used in different records, and repeated patterns in census and other connected data, that once uncovered will help reveal unwritten histories buried in the archives.

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